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Farm News & Views - October 5, 2021

In August, President Biden set a goal that by 2030, 50% the cars and trucks sold in the U.S. would be electric vehicles.  That may be a realistic goal, since all of the major auto manufacturers are gearing up to meet consumer demand for electric powered rides, but it may be a tougher sell in farm country both for trucks and farm equipment.  Researchers at Ohio State University point out that there are a number of logistical drawbacks to running large trucks, tractors, combines and other harvest equipment on electrical power.  The first is that farm equipment is often used in remote locations, far from electric power lines and charging sources.  Also during planting and harvesting,the equipment may leave a farm headquarters and not return for days or weeks, while operating from dawn to dusk or even throughout the night in order to plant or harvest crops before incriminate weather halts field work.  Other logistical problems that may slow electrification of farm equipment power includes the ease and speed of topping off fuel tanks on diesel powered equipment, versus the slow process of charging a battery on a 10 ton tractor, which also points out the possibility of soil compaction when the weight of a large battery is added to equipment that’s already very heavy.  Another concern that many farmers express is whether they’ll be able to preform maintenance and repairs on electric farm equipment themselves, rather than having to take the equipment to a dealer whenever routine maintenance is required.

Over the past couple of months, there’s been a lot of talk in Washington about collusion among the big four meat packers, JBS, Tyson, Cargill and National Beef, that has allegedly resulted in higher meat prices for consumers, and windfall profits for the meat packers.  Last week, a federal judge in Minnesota ordered a class action lawsuit against JBS, Tyson, National Beef and Cargill to proceed. In the ruling, the Judge found that plaintiffs have plausibly plead that defendants conspired to suppress the price of fed cattle and increase the price of the beef that they sell.  Now this litigation isn’t related to the resent hand ringing in Washington, it was filed by R-Calf USA in April 2019.   According to the Family Farm Action Alliance, the big four meat packers process 73% of the beef in the U.S.

Maybe we can cut the agricultural bureaucracy a little slack though.  Three months ago, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the USDA would commit $500 million to expand meat and poultry processing and create a more competitive livestock market.  Yesterday, he unveiled a loan guarantee program aimed at increasing meat industry capacity, which seems to indicate that loans will be available for construction of small processing facilities that will encourage small livestock producers to grow and sell meat locally.

October is National Pork Month, and according to the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, pork is the worlds' most widely eaten meat, ahead of chicken and beef.

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.